Monthly Archives: June 2010

Divided Loyalties or The Best Of Both Worlds?

The World Cup of soccer is all the rage around the world. Although it may stand behind football, baseball, basketball, and hockey as the national pastime in America, for the next few weeks, it plays on center stage. At a minimum, it has become a worthy topic of conversation at the office water cooler.

One relatively overlooked aspect of the world tournament concerns the divided loyalties of the players. Because it is an international sport, many soccer players find their livelihood playing for teams in opposing countries.

For example, of the 23 men on the U.S. roster, 13 were born in other countries or are sons of parents from other countries. Many could play for two countries. In fact, 19 of the U.S.’s players are members of professional clubs in Britain, Europe and Mexico.

“It’s definitely a quandary,” said Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, who was born in Germany but moved to the United States at age 4 and has coached UCLA, the L.A Galaxy and the U.S. under-20 team. “I root for Germany when they play anyone except the United States. I’ve always felt my first loyalty is to the United States.”

While playing with divided loyalties works in the sports community, it can cause multiple problems in matters of faith.

Please join me in our Daily Bible Conversation as we discuss this further.


2 Kings 17:1-18:12
Acts 20:1-38
Psalm 148:1-14
Proverbs 18:6-7


2 Kings 17:1-18:12. Today’s reading marks a sad chapter in Israel’s history. As a result of Israel’s sin, Assyria invaded Judah’s sister country, completely obliterating them and exiling many of them into Assyria. The writer of 2 Kings then goes to great lengths to explain what caused Israel’s destruction (2 Kings 17:7-23).

The people of Israel (at home as well as those in exile) were then forced to intermarry with the Assyrians. The New Bible Commentary explains the reasoning behind Assyria’s actions:

It was normal Assyrian practice to replace deported populations with groups from other parts of the empire. The purpose was to dilute nationalistic feeling and so make revolt less likely.

Judah was now an only child.

In an about face, Hezekiah followed a different path than his father Ahaz and became as godly of a king as Ahaz was evil. He destroyed all the remnants of idolatry, and, in a departure from other godly kings, he tore down the high places. This caused the writer to comment, “There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.” Since David was the king of a unified Israel and Judah, it probably isn’t implying Hezekiah was greater than him.

And as a result, God blessed him. While Assyria obliterated Israel, they were unable to repeat the same atrocity to Judah.

Acts 20:1-38. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice that the word “we” suddenly appears in verse six. Obviously Luke, the writer of Acts, joined Paul at that point in his travels. Off and on for the rest of the book, we read an eyewitness account of Paul’s travels.

In verse 7, we read for the first time that the Christians gathered on the first day of the week to break bread together.

Verse 8 offers an odd detail about Paul’s late-night sermon: “There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting.” Scholars believe this suggests that the fumes from the lamps were responsible for Eutychus sleeping and falling out of the window.


Congratulations! You have now reached halfway point in reading through the Bible in a year. Most people don’t make it this far, so you should feel pretty good right now. It’s all downhill from here!

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After Israel was destroyed and forced to intermarry with the Assyrians, Assyria sent a priest to teach everyone the ways of Yahweh. Sounds hopeful, doesn’t it? But here’s what we read in 2 Kings 17:33:

They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.

In other words, the people added the worship of Yahweh in addition to their other idols.

As a result, twice—in verses 32 and 33—the writer says about the people of Samaria, “They worshipped the Lord, but…”

Then in verse 34 he writes, “To this day they persist in their former practices. They neither worship the Lord nor adhere to the decrees and ordinances.”

So which one is it? Did they worship the Lord or not?

Looks like a case of divided loyalties. From God’s perspective, in soccer parlance, this would be considered a foul.

As we move closer to the books in the Bible that were written by prophets, we see that God wants to be our one and only. He doesn’t want a commitment from us that reflects the people of Samaria who “worshipped the Lord, but…”

In God’s economy, divided loyalties equal disloyalty.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What divided loyalties pull at you?
  3. What drives any divided loyalties you might be experiencing?
  4. How does today’s reading speak to them?

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Fighting Your Demons

Have you ever noticed the prevalence of horror movies involving demons? Yet, western society refuses to acknowledge in their existence. This has never made sense to me.

Please join me as we delve into a subject many people believe in—but refuse to acknowledge.


2 Kings 15:1-16:20.
Acts 19:13-41
Psalm 147:1-20
Proverbs 18:4-5


2 Kings 15:1-16:20. Today we read about Israel’s kings in rapid-fire succession…

King Azariah is also listed under a variety of names: Uzziah (verses 13 and 30), Uzziahu (verses 32 and 34), and Uzza (2 Kings 21:18). He brought spiritual revival and economic prosperity to Judah like few kings before him.

In Isaiah 6:1, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.” King Uzziah’s death was a significant moment for Israel because he represented stability in every sphere of life. The people knew his son Jotham was no Uzziah. Yet, in the midst of an uncertain future, God wanted them to know he was still on the throne. You can learn more about Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26.

Israel, on the other hand, became the picture of instability. While King Jeroboam II of Israel had brought economic stability to the country, the violent overthrow of kings after him brought rapid instability.

King Ahaz of Judah (Uzziah’s grandson), did not follow in the way of his successors, introducing more evil into Judah than probably any other king. The New Bible Commentary explains how Ahaz’s refusal to cooperate with King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah of Israel nearly brought an early end to the royal line of King David:

Further light is thrown on these events by Isaiah 7:1–6. The picture which emerges is that Rezin and Pekah wanted to create an anti-Assyrian coalition including Judah. Unable to persuade Ahaz to join them, they proposed to remove him from the throne and replace him with their own nominee (Ben-Tabeel; Isaiah 7:6). Their success would have brought the Davidic dynasty to an end.

As a result, Ahaz asked Assyria for help, emptying the temple treasuries (which meant nothing to him). This, in turn, would have a detrimental effect on Judah’s spiritual climate.

Acts 19:13-41. In the midst of the mass hysteria for converting many followers of Diana, notice that Paul did nothing to disparage his opposition. In Acts 19:37, the city clerk of Ephesus reminds the rioters: “You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess.”

Because Paul acted respectfully toward people of other faiths, his accusers were quickly silenced. Proverbs 15:1 reminds us that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Two ironies strike me in this passage:

1. The seven sons of Sceva may not have been followers of Jesus, yet they started a domino effect that resulted in a spiritual breakthrough and mass conversions. This affected the artisans who benefitted from the people who purchased Artemis-related memorabilia.  The worship of Artemis (Diana) was the largest religion in the Roman Empire.

2. Despite the people’s fervent belief in Artemis’s importance what did they yell? “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians.” Obviously, Artemis was no match for Jesus. Artemis was so “great” that her followers felt the need to defend her.

Psalm 147:1-20. You know what brings pleasure to God? Verses 10-11 tell us:

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.

God delights when we take him seriously and place our trust in the fact that his love never fails.

Proverbs 18:4-5. “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook” (Proverbs 18:4). Our words reveal our hearts. If you want to know what resides in the heart of another person, listen. If you want to know what’s resident deep inside, listen to yourself.

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Probably one of the most politically incorrect beliefs in the Christian church is our belief in Satan, demons, and hell. I’m astounded by the blindness in our world when atrocities are committed on a regular basis. Where on earth did they begin? They didn’t. They began not here but in hell.

Reading through the Gospels, it quickly becomes apparent that Jesus directed a great deal of his ministry against demons. We also witness their presence—and influence—in the book of Acts. While reading the story of the seven sons of Sceva in Acts 19, a few thoughts came to mind:

1. Power resides in the name of Jesus. According to our reading, Paul used the name of Jesus to cast out demons from people. The sons of Sceva tried imitating Paul, much to their chagrin. Which brings us to the next insight…

2. Jumping into a ministry like this while unprepared can be dangerous. Dealing with demons isn’t something you don’t want to do if you don’t know what you’re doing. The sons of Sceva walked away from their experience with demons a bit scarred (and scared).

3. A relationship with Jesus not only ensures that you don’t need to walk in fear, but that you can delve into this with confidence and authority. The men were sons of a Jewish chief priest—but that wasn’t enough. They needed to know Jesus—and be submitted to his authority. Paul, on the other hand, seemed unfazed by the demons control over Sceva’s sons.

4. Success over evil spirits can result in spiritual breakthroughs that affect others. As a result of the spiritual breakthrough, people began burning their books. This may not be politically correct to say, but destroying evil influences can break their grip on a person. We then read, “In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” (Acts 19:20).


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. How have you experienced power in the name of Jesus?
  3. What demonic influences do you need to destroy?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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The Measure Of A Leader

In the 1993 movie Dave, Bill Mitchell is the philandering and disengaged President of the United States. Dave Kovic is a sweet-natured and caring Temp Agency operator, who by a staggering coincidence looks exactly like the President. When Mitchell wants to escape an official luncheon, the Secret Service hires Dave to stand in for him.

Unfortunately, Mitchell suffers a severe stroke during a tryst with one of his aides, and Dave finds himself stuck in the role indefinitely. The corrupt and manipulative Chief of Staff, Bob Alexander, plans to use Dave to elevate himself to the White House—but unfortunately, he doesn’t count on Dave enjoying himself in office, using his luck to make the country a better place, and falling in love with the beautiful First Lady.

In the end, Dave hands the reigns of the presidency to the un-flashy, un-charismatic, and somewhat strange vice president, played by Ben Kingsley.

What makes a good leader–at least in God’s eyes? You may be surprised by the answer.

Please join me in today’s Bible conversation.


2 Kings 13:1-14:29
Acts 18:23-19:12
Psalm 146:1-10
Proverbs 18:2-3


2 Kings 13:1-14:29. Although the king isn’t the designated spiritual leader of Israel—that’s the role of the high priest or  prophet—he definitely sets the tone. We read that King Jehoahaz followed in the sins of Jeroboam, but then pleaded for God to rescue them, while still continuing in the evil king’s sins.

King Jehoahaz and the rest of Israel follow a familiar pattern, which actually began in the book of Judges:

  1. The people worship idols.
  2. God becomes angry and allows the surrounding countries to invade them. T
  3. he people beg for God to save them. God sends a deliverer.
  4. The people begin worshipping idols again.

“The Lord provided a deliverer for Israel, and they escaped from the power of Aram. So the Israelites lived in their own homes as they had before” (verse 5). Who was the deliverer? Probably Elisha the prophet, although at various times God used kings, or even pagan leaders of foreign countries who defeated any invading countries.

King Jehoahaz also exhibited little vision for Israel. When Elisha encouraged the king to strike the symbolic arrows of victory into the ground, he showed very little resolve. Has weak leadership resulted in a very weak army (see 2 Kings 13:7).

Nevertheless, despite Israel’s sin, we see a window into God’s compassionate heart:

Hazael king of Aram oppressed Israel throughout the reign of Jehoahaz. But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To this day he has been unwilling to destroy them or banish them from his presence (2 Kings 13:22-23).

Next, we read about King Amaziah of Judah, whose arrogance caused the invasion by Israel and a pillaging of the temple. His unpopular decisions prompted his assassination.

Just a thought: what is the people’s recourse when they are led by an unfit king? Without an election every few years, their only alternative is assassination.

Acts 18:23-19:12. At the beginning of our reading, we learn of Apollos. Although he was preaching an incomplete version of the gospel, he had obviously become quite an effective communicator. His background is explained because he became a prominent leader in the New Testament church. In 1 Corinthians, Paul rebukes the church in Corinth for taking sides with various leaders. Apollos was one of those leaders (see 1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:4-22).

Psalm 146:1-10. “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save” (verse 3). Every election, politicians assure us that we can trust them because they can save us. This verse reminds us that while we should respect politicians, they will never be completely trustworthy and they will never be able to save us.

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Historians and archeologists tell us that King Jeroboam II was one of Israel’s most important kings. In fact, we read that he restored Israel’s boundaries which had been lost through various battles. Oddly enough, the writer of 2 Kings only gives him seven verses (2 Kings 14:23-29).

This echoes the memory of King Omri, who was another highly successful king but given little coverage in 1 Kings (read 1 Kings 16).

Today, when the economy is struggling, people become very concerned about electing officials who can turn everything around. Not long ago, the rallying cry during one election tried to convince us, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

But witnessing the short shrift Kings Omri and Jeroboam II receive in Scripture prompts me to ask what is most important.

What is most important in God’s eyes—expertise or character? Obviously, the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but it seems like character triumphs over expertise.

Take King David, for example. What made him Israel’s greatest king? He was a strong military leader and he transformed Jerusalem from a foreign stronghold into the spiritual and political capital of Israel. We also know he was a poor father, a murderer, and an adulterer. Yet despite his flaws, we also know that he had a heart for God. When caught in a web of deception surrounding the murder of Uriah and the “sudden” pregnancy of his new wife Bathsheba, David acknowledged his sin and repented.

His character distinguished him as a great man.

Perhaps our definition of a great leader differs from God’s.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What qualities do you look for in a leader?
  3. Why is a leader’s character important to God?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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Bob Dylan’s Unknown God

For a five or six year period, Bob Dylan professed to be a follower of Jesus Christ. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he attended Bible studies led by Kenn Gullickson and John Wimber, the co-founders of the Vineyard churches, and looked to well-known Christian musician Keith Green as a spiritual mentor.

That season in his life was probably best reflected in his album Slow Train Coming. One song in particular expressed a deep longing in all of us: Gotta Serve Somebody. Here’s an excerpt of his lyrics:

You might be a rock ’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage
You may be a businessman or some high-degree thief
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

The message behind Dylan’s song? All of us are wired to worship. Some of us worship a God we know. Others worship unknown gods.

Join me this weekend as we delve further into this subject.


2 Kings 9:14-12:21
Acts 17:1-18:22
Psalm 144:1-145:21
Proverbs 17:27-18:1


2 Kings 9:14-12:21. Notice the location where Jehu accosted King Joram: the field where Joram’s mother Jezebel had Naboth murdered, which was then stolen by her husband King Ahab. The irony in this passage is that Joram ran away from Jehu yelling “Treachery,” when that is how his father and mother treated Naboth.

Why did Jehu kill King Ahaziah of Judah? The New Bible Commentary explains:

His killing of Ahaziah of Judah was not commanded by the prophet in verses 7–10. Jehu presumably felt it was justified because Ahaziah was the son of Athaliah, granddaughter of Omri (2 Kings 8:26).

Jehu was an “all or nothing” kind of person. When he slaughtered Ahab’s family, he destroyed them completely. Then he slaughtered anyone close to the family and then ordered the killing of all the priests of Baal before turning their temple into a latrine.

Lest we assume all of his actions were pure, scholars speculate that Jehu’s “zeal” was a means of destroying any potential opposition to his throne. He also assumed the throne by striking fear in the hearts of anyone who questioned him. Lastly, we read in Hosea 1:4 that God brought an end to Jehu’s legacy because he was displeased about the massacre at Jezreel.

Interestingly enough, though, he failed to destroy the golden calves that the people worshipped (2 Kings 10:29). Apparently, vestiges of idol worship remained in his heart because we read in verse 31 that “He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit.”

Yesterday we read about Athaliah. Today, we learn that when she heard that her son Ahaziah had been killed, she proceeded to wipe out the rest of her family (except for Joash). Athaliah was indeed an extremely evil, power-hungry woman. Had she succeeded, she would have ended David’s dynasty.

Note to self: no one can thwart God’s plans.

Acts 17:1-18:22. In this reading, we’re given some snapshots of Paul’s stops. The people in Thessalonica weren’t very receptive which forced Paul to depart very quickly. After leaving the city, Paul wrote a letter to the church in order to leave some important instructions. You can read that letter—it’s called 1 Thessalonians.

Proverbs 17:27-18:1. “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue” (Proverbs 17:27-28).

I’m slowly learning that I don’t need to tell people everything that’s on my mind. For extroverts like me, fewer words are better.

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While in Athens, Paul was invited to address a gathering of philosophers at the Aereopagus (also called Mars Hill). Addressing the men and women in this venue, which was filled with idols, must have given him quite a cultural jolt due to his strict, conservative Jewish upbringing.

But instead of criticizing his listeners or the idols they worshipped, Paul found common ground between them. In the hall where they met, he noticed an altar—a religious monument—dedicated to an unknown god.

Paul worshipped a God he knew; they worshipped a god they didn’t know.

Paul then explained that the unknown god they were worshipping was really the God of the Bible. He then quoted two poets with whom the listeners were already familiar. Epimenides and Aratus, the two poets, were like rock stars in their day. Most importantly, Paul used the idols and poems to point to their need for Jesus.

All of us are worshippers. Some of us know the God we worship. Others worship gods they don’t know.

But we’re all gonna have to serve somebody.

So how can we identify those unknown gods?

They can look like addictions, hobbies, wounds, vocations, avocations—anything that tends to control or dominate our lives. We can catch a glimpse of those gods through our restlessness, fear, lethargy. Whatever ways those unknown gods express themselves in our lives, they ultimately point us to our deeper need: Jesus.

If you’re going to serve somebody, you might as well serve someone you can know—and someone who deeply loves you in return.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. In your opinion, was Jehu a good king or an evil king? Is it hard to make a distinction? Why or why not?
  3. What gods do you gravitate toward?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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When Your Religious Rights Are Taken Away

In 1995, Robert Lee Brock, a prisoner in Virginia, wanted to be transferred from prison into a mental institution. In order to achieve his goal, he decided to sue himself. He claimed that his crime was committed while he was drunk, which violated his religious beliefs, thereby violating his civil liberties.

Brock then sued himself for $5 million—but to make matters worse, he claimed that the state should pay the legal expenses because he was behind bars and without an income. Fortunately, the case was dismissed and Brock didn’t get his transfer.

Brock’s case makes a mockery of religious liberties. But it does beg the question: how should Christians respond when their rights are violated?

The answer—according to today’s reading—might disturb you.

Please join us in our daily Bible conversation.


2 Kings 8:1-9:13
Acts 16:16-40
Psalm 143:1-12
Proverbs 17:26


2 Kings 8:1-9:13. Elisha asked for a double-portion (the firstborn’s share) of Elijah’s power—and God certainly answered his request. Unlike his predecessor, Elisha enjoyed the favor of not only Israel’s king, but of the surrounding nations as well. In this case, the king of Aram sought Elisha’s prophetic insight.

In Elisha’s story, two unGodlike actions occur:

God sends a famine to Israel. Between the modern-day “prophets” who perpetually march around downtown cities foretelling the gloom and doom, and people who proclaim God never disciplines us, we read that God can and does send pain and frustration. Romans 8:20-21 tells us that God subjected his creation to frustration in the hope that “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” In other words, the frustration we feel as a result of things like famine is designed drive us to the freedom that only God gives.

God seemingly deceives Ben-Hadad. The New Bible sheds some light on this somewhat troubling story:

The reason for the false message is left obscure, but verse 10 probably expresses the tension between what Elisha knew of Ben-Hadad’s illness and what he knew of Hazael’s intentions: the sickness itself was not fatal, but Ben-Hadad would die nevertheless because Hazael planned to murder him and take the throne. Elisha did not say that God had chosen Hazael to be king in Ben-Hadad’s place, merely that he would be, and that he would cause great suffering in Israel.

In verse 18 of chapter 8, we read what seems to be a somewhat harsh assessment of King Jehoram’s seemingly obscure wife: “He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for he married a daughter of Ahab.”

We’ll read more about her in chapter 11, but her name was Athaliah, and she was indeed, incredibly evil. She was the daughter of Ahab, and although we’re not sure if her mother was Jezebel, she definitely followed in the woman’s footsteps.

Acts 16:16-40. The beating that Paul and Silas received was particularly brutal. The Bible Background Commentary explains:

Unless the accused were Roman citizens, they were normally beaten before the trial as a means of securing evidence; in practice, lower-class persons had few legal protections. Roman magistrates’ attendants, called lictors, carried rods in bundles, and with these rods they beat the foreigners here. Sometimes, as here, the accused were stripped first. Public beatings served not only to secure evidence but also to humiliate those beaten and to discourage their followers.

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How do you respond to unjust suffering? Do you:

  • Blame others?
  • Blame God?
  • Allow the resulting bitterness to drive you away from God?
  • Whine and complain?
  • Sulk?
  • Call a lawyer?

How you respond says a great deal about who you really are.

Paul and Silas’s response to persecution astounds me. The two men are severely beaten (see verse 23), thrown into prison, and then their feet are fastened into a very uncomfortable set of stocks.

And how did they respond? They prayed and sang hymns to God. Then, after they were miraculously freed, they took the time to share the gospel with their jailer and his family.

Scripture gives us a quite different perspective on religious persecution that what we commonly see today:

“The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41).

“But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (1 Peter 4:13-14).

To add balance to our discussion, let me add that later, Paul appealed to Caesar for his unjust treatment—but I can’t escape (pardon the pun!) the way the two men responded. The salvation of their jailer and his family was more important than escaping to freedom.

Had Jesus not laid down his rights and agreed to be tried in a kangaroo court, and then wrongly nailed to a cross, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to receive the gift of eternal life.

When we respond in love when our rights being taken away, we look a lot like Jesus.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. Describe a time when you’ve experienced God’s redemptive judgment.
  3. To what extent should believers demand their rights?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.


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I Found God. Or Did God Find Me?

“I found God on the corner of 1st and Amistad,” goes the popular Fray song. Many of us who talk about knowing God talk that way. “I found Jesus,” people say.

“Was he lost?” I want to ask.

Does God crouch down behind a bush, counting to a billion, playing hide and seek with us? Or does God seek us?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

2 Kings 6:1-7:20

Acts 15:36-16:15

Psalm 142:1-7

Proverbs 17:24-25


2 Kings 6:1-7:20: There’s a cliché that asks, “If you can’t find God, guess who has moved?” This is a guilt-line to try to convince us we can’t sense God because we are doing something wrong. Maybe. But the four lepers found out that it was God who had moved. God was not sitting against the city wall waiting for them to die, as they were. God was out in front of them taking care of business.

“If you can’t find God, guess who has moved?” Sometimes the answer is: God. And we need to get up and follow.

Acts 15: Paul and Barnabas argue over young John Mark. As far as we know, they never work together again. A deep friendship is broken. But God redeems even this. In place of Barnabas, God provides Silas, Timothy, Titus, and many others as partners for Paul.

And John Mark matures and becomes a partner of Peter–another person Paul argued with–and eventually writes The Gospel According to Mark.

When we give our disagreements and disappointments to God, he turns them into better stories.

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I believe God seeks us out.

For me this is really good news because I’ve never been able to find anything. “If it was a snake it would have bit you,” my mom used to say pointing out my lost shoe right under my nose. If not for my wife, I would have starved to death long ago because of my inability to find food in the refrigerator.

This is genetic, some say, part of being a male.

Maybe so. Even though God is pretty big, I’ve over-looked him often enough. Then some of us even refuse to look.

I once saw a magazine advertisement that asked, “What do you do if people won’t come to the doctor? Take the doctor to them.”

God had the same idea first. God takes it to us, so to speak. He sent Philip and Peter and Paul and Barnabas and many un-named others out to find those who had need. For that matter, God never hung out a shingle for his spiritual health clinic, hoping we would seek him out.

“Where are you?” God asked Adam and Eve. God sought out Abraham, Moses, the Samaritan woman at the well, and, in Acts 16, Lydia. God even seeks out you and me. As a little boy, I once ran away to see if my mom would look for me. She did. It felt great–not the spanking I received after she found me–but that she cared enough to seek me out.

Did you know God cares so much about you he is always on the hunt for you? The Hound of Heaven, Francis Thompson called God in his poem by the same name.

“Lost and insecure, You found me, you found me,

Lying on the floor, where were you? Where were you?”

The Fray ask as if it’s God’s fault we hide from him. Maybe, if you haven’t already, it’s time to stop running.

  1. Which passage spoke to you and why?
  2. Has God found you?
  3. If so, when and how?

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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog


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Stop Going to Church

Does it matter if people go to church? In their book Lost in America Tom Clegg and Warren Bird write, “The unchurched population in the United States is so extensive that, were it a nation, it would be the fifth-largest on the planet.” They say that number is 195 million people.

For years researchers in America have used church attendance to gauge how deeply faith in Jesus Christ has penetrated our culture and the lives of individuals. Rather than ask whether people believe in or are following Christ, they ask about church attendance.

It may not be the right question. I’m finding the number of people who call themselves Christians who do not go to church is growing. If going to church is optional, even for followers of Christ, why does it matter that people are unchurched?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

2 Kings 4:18-5:27

Acts 15:1-35

Psalm 141:1-10

Proverbs 17:23


2 Kings 4:18-5:27: This section switches from a macro view of the Israel’s struggles and the ancient Palestinian world to one examining God interacting with ordinary people. Here there is no political intrigue, no world shaping issues. Just a nameless woman who helplessly holds her son on her lap as he dies of some painful ailment and a soldier who battles the physical and social impact of leprosy. God graciously touches both.

Why are these stories in Scripture?  In part to remind us that in God’s eyes we all are the same size, there are no little people. Your problems He cares about, mine too.

Acts 15:1-35: Notice that the argument to overrule Jewish Law and tradition is made from three sources of authority. First, God gave Peter a vision that set aside certain parts of the Law and gave him a call to non-Jews.

Second, experience showed the church that God filled non-Jews with the Holy Spirit in both Peter and Paul’s ministries.

Third, Simon quotes the Old Testament as the final testimony that non-Jews can belong and are part of God’s new community. In essence God uses Jewish Law and tradition–there must be three witnesses–for a truth to be accepted. Three parts of the community must affirm the new direction the church discerns God calling them.

When we have seen what we think are new movements of God, have they passed this test? Or do we depend less on God speaking through a community and more on that individual inner voice?

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In Acts 15 Luke records the first church council ever held, the Jerusalem Council. Paul and Barnabas asked for clarification on exactly what one needs to do to be a part of what they called The Way. Peter, James, and other leaders respond with good news. No race or ethnicity matters, no membership or religious action is required. Salvation comes through grace alone.

So it may not matter if people go to church. Then why did God spend so much time and energy creating the church?

Later in the chapter, Luke tells us how they “gathered the church together” to hear what the Jerusalem Council ruled. Notice Paul and his team did not “go to church” to announce this. They gathered the church. This tells us church is not something one goes to—or does not—as the case may be. God created the church not as a place but rather a people who God gathers together around Jesus.

Church in the ancient Mediterranean world looked a felt more like a family than the voluntary organization we think of the church as today. This was so that God’s love and grace might flow through living breathing people.

Also being the church meant living as a community centered on Christ while they worked, worshiped, learned, sang, served, grieved, celebrated, prayed and grew together.

In reality depth of faith has little to do with how many of us “go to church.” It has more to do with how many of us are being the church together. The real issue is not that those of us lonely and lost and fearful don’t have a church to go to but rather may not have a Person and people to turn to.

We should join those 195 million plus people and stop going to church. Then we can let God form us into a community that those who have not fully experienced the grace of Jesus Christ will want to become a part of.

  1. Where do you find fellowship and faith in Christ?
  2. What kind of community do you belong to?
  3. Do you go to church?

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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog


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An Unexpected Secret To Good Health

As of this morning, “Charlie Bit My Finger” has registered over 202 million views on YouTube.” If you haven’t seen it yet—or you just need a good laugh—click on the video above.

“A day without laughter is a day wasted,” comedian Charlie Chaplin once commented.

Not only is laughter a good way to spend your time, it also offers an unexpected secret to good health. Please join me today as we explore this topic further.


2 Kings 3:1-4:17
Acts 14:8-28
Psalm 140:1-13
Proverbs 17:22


2 Kings 3:1-4:17. King Joram of Israel was much like his father Ahab. He led Israel in the worship of idols, however, it’s interesting that in a pinch, he sought the direction from the God of Israel. Deep down, we know the gods that tantalize us cannot rescue us.

King Jehoshaphat, on the other hand, provides us with a model of sincere faith. I find it interesting that he responded the same way to King Joram as he had to King Ahab: Jehoshaphat was unashamedly committed to Yahweh and openly acknowledged his reliance upon God’s direction. At the same time, he never comes across as preachy.

Three thoughts occur to me as I read about the kings’ preparation for battle:

  • God showed favor to evil people because of the presence of the righteous (verse 14).
  • Rescuing the troops in the desert was easy for God. As the troops in the desert are about to die of thirst, God responds to the kings plea for deliverance, Elisha tells them, “This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord” (verse 18).
  • God answered the kings’ request in an unexpected way. No one assumed water to flow into a desert. When God answers our prayers, he often does so in unexpected ways. The challenge for us is to recognize it when it comes.

One difference between Elisha and Elijah is that Elisha carried some influence with the king (2 Kings 4:13). Perhaps this explains why King Joram wasn’t considered as evil as his father Ahab.

Acts 14:8-28. The crowd in Lystra is reminiscent of the crowd in Jerusalem during Holy Week. On Palm Sunday, the people shouted praises to Jesus and a week later they crucified him. In the same way, Paul and Barnabas were considered Greek gods before some Jews arrived in town and incited the people against them.

The New Bible Commentary offers an interesting explanation of why the people assumed the men were gods:

There is an ancient story about these same two gods visiting a town in the area. They were not recognized and received only a cool reception. In anger they destroyed the town that had been so inhospitable. With such a folk-tale circulating in this region, it is hardly any wonder that the crowd reacted in the way that they did, bringing forth a bull and wreathes and wanting to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas after a simple healing. The legend also helps to explain why they assumed the visitors were those particular gods rather than a god of healing, as might have been expected from the events themselves.

What incited the crowd against Paul and Barnabas? Probably a combination of embarrassment for being fooled and perhaps the belief that the men were seeking to take advantage of them (fueled by their Jewish accusers).

In verse 19, we read that the crowd stoned Paul (where was Barnabas?). Most amazing of all, though, we read in verse 20, “But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.”

After being pelted with rocks and nearly killed, I doubt I would demonstrate the same commitment as Paul.

Reflecting on their opposition, Paul and Barnabas advised their fellow disciples, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (verse 22).  The belief that followers of Jesus should never experience pain or suffering is completely false and misguided.

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A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Proverbs 17:22

Years ago—before the proliferation of cable and satellite television, and Comedy Central—a friend of mine came up with the idea that every hospital should air a special television network dedicated to making people laugh. Quoting this passage of Scripture, he believed it would aid the patients in their healing.

Centuries later, scientific studies report that laughter triggers certain endorphins that help people heal.

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychology, described laughter as a release of fear, anxiety and aggression. Further research by the American Physiological Society found that laughter decreases the secretion of the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine while raising the levels of immune-boosting hormones, such as beta-endorphins and human growth hormone.

A doctor in India has even developed “laughter clubs” which have spread around the world. These clubs are designed to allow stressed-out executives to laugh their way back to good health.

Rather than being “unspiritual,” laughter is a gift from God and key to living healthy lives.

To learn more about the health benefits of laughter, read this and this.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. How has laughter helped you heal?
  3. How does laughter fit into your walk with God?
  4. What humorous experiences with God would you be willing to share with us?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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Love Inaction Or Love In Action?

Anna Mae Bullock was born in 1939 and grew up as the daughter of a Baptist deacon in Nutbush, Tennessee. After her parents divorced at age 10, she spent the rest of her adolescent years living with her grandparents. At age 18, she began singing with a man named Ike and married him a year later. The two became a successful husband and wife duo, garnering critical success and selling millions of records.

Despite their success, Ike’s addiction to drugs drove him to become an increasingly abusive husband. Finally, after a particularly violent episode, Anna left her husband. With 36 cents to her name, she spent the next few months in hiding, fearful of a reprisal from Ike.

Slowly, Anna pieced her world together and remerged on the international music scene bigger than ever. She’s best known for a 1984 hit song with lyrics that likely reflect her experience with an abusive husband and abandoned parents:

What’s love got to do, got to do with it
What’s love but a second hand emotion
What’s love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart
When a heart can be broken

The words betray a shattered heart. Her parents and husband may have told her that they loved her, but their actions communicated something quite different.

The woman’s stage name? If you haven’t guessed it already, her name is Tina Turner.

Please join me in our daily Bible conversation as we delve deeper into love in action—rather than love inaction.


2 Kings 1:1-2:25
Acts 13:42-14:7
Psalm 139:1-24
Proverbs 17:19-21


2 Kings 1:1-2:25. Second Kings concludes with the end of Elijah’s life. He seems a little more relaxed after his Mt. Horeb experience. When Jezebel pursued him, he ran. This time, when King Ahaziah’s men sought to call him to account for the words he had spoken, Elijah called down fire from heaven.

As Elijah enters the last few hours of his life, his protégé Elisha asks him for a double portion of his spirit. That doesn’t mean he would get twice as much power as Elijah. He was asking for the inheritance of the firstborn son. Normally, the firstborn son received twice as much of the inheritance as the other successors. This meant he wanted to be the heir apparent to Elijah.

Notice the mentoring relationship evident between Elijah and Elisha. Most compelling to me is the way Elisha sought out a mentor in Elijah. Elijah called Elisha from the field to assume his role as a prophet to Israel, but after that, Elisha followed him, learned from him, and desperately desired to follow in his footsteps.

Theologians have long compared Elijah with Moses. Both were extremely important to Israel’s history—and in fact both appeared together at Jesus’ transfiguration (see Matthew 17). A theologian once wrote, “Without Moses the religion of Yahweh as it figured in the Old Testament would never have been born. Without Elijah it would have died.”

In the same way, theologians have found a number of parallels between Elisha and Moses’ successor Joshua:

As Joshua succeeded Moses as leader of the people, so Elisha succeeded Elijah, crossing the Jordan on dry land from east to west as Joshua did (versed 14) and following in Joshua’s footsteps by going on to Jericho (verses 15–22). Even Elisha’s name recalls that of Joshua. Elisha means ‘God is salvation’, while Joshua means ‘Yahweh is salvation’.

Finally, as Elijah rode off into the heavens in a whirlwind, Elisha cried out, “the chariots and horsemen of Israel.” This was an indication that Elisha believed Elijah was Israel’s protection, that he was the chariots and horsemen of Israel.

Acts 13:42-14:7. This section was a turning point in Paul’s ministry. Previous to this, he focused on reaching the Jews with the gospel, but because of their vigorous opposition, Paul decided to bring the gospel to Gentiles (Acts 13:46). If you’re a Gentile believer, you can thank the people of Pisidian Antioch for inspiring Paul to make the change. The passage includes a phrase that has caused many of a debate over the centuries. The New Bible Commentary explains:

Luke’s phrase all who were appointed for eternal life believed is to redress a balance. For it is never merely a person’s own choice that saves them, it is always God’s love and mercy. As with all the passages dealing with the conversion of Gentiles, Luke is at pains to show that what happened was at God’s initiative and had God’s approval. The acceptance of the Jewish Messiah by the Gentiles was sometimes a surprise and sometimes an offence to the early Christians, but none of it took God by surprise; he had always planned it just this way, as the quotation in v 47 shows.

Psalm 139. This is one of the most profound of all psalms. Notice that David begins by recounting the many ways God cares for him. Then he responds, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you” (verses 17-18).

Worship is a response to God’s love and faithfulness toward us. We don’t worship to win God’s favor, we worship because of God’s favor.

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Often when I read a passage of Scripture, I ask myself, What does this tell me about God?

From my initial reading Psalm 139, I learned:

  • God knows me in my deepest places. He knows me so well that even before I speak a word, he knows what I’m going to say (verses 1-4).
  • God surrounds me. I can do everything in my strength to avoid him, but he’s always there. Even in my darkest places, God is with me (verses 5-12).
  • God created me with a purpose in mind. He was intimately involved in creating me. No mistakes were made when he formed me (verses 13-16).
  • God is in ultimate control of my life. Every day of my life was recorded in a book before I was born (verse 16).

If there’s one idea that summarizes this psalm, it’s the word “love.” Yet, notice that the word never appears in the text.

“Love” is one of the most over-used words in the English language. When I monitor my kids’ FaceBook, they throw around the word “love” as if it were a preposition in a sentence. When they’re dating someone (or “going together” as my younger teenage daughters call it), they tell each other that they love each other.

Of course, I’m an equal opportunity offender. I describe to my friends how I “love” my new truck, my favorite cereal, or my Denver Broncos American football team.

But in God’s economy, love is more than a word he throws around. God’s love for us is in action—24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

God demonstrates his love for us by knowing us intimately and still accepting us. By accompanying us in our darkest places. By creating us with a purpose in mind. By ultimately controlling our destiny.

God loves you—and you can’t do anything about it. You can’t change his mind. You can’t run from it. All you can do is accept it.

That’s love. In action.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What does Psalm 139 tell YOU about God?
  3. How has God shown you love in action?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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The Dangers Of Jif Peanut Butter

When I was a kid, one of the more popular commercials on television was sponsored by Jif Peanut Butter. The tagline of the commercial went, “Choosey mothers choose Jif.”

In the commercial, being choosey meant being incredibly selective about what you eat.

When it comes to shopping, spouse-hunting, and theology,  choosiness is extremely important. But when it comes to our relationship with God, choosiness can be extremely detrimental.

Please join me as we discuss this further.


1 Kings 20:1-22:53
Acts 12:24-13:41
Psalm 137:1-138:8
Proverbs 17:16-18


1 Kings 20:1-22:53. Naboth was accused of breaking the Law by blaspheming God (Exodus 22:28), but in doing so, Jezebel broke the Law by coveting, murdering Naboth, stealing, and giving false testimony (Exodis 20:13, 15-17).

We then read that Ahab and Jezebel were the most evil rulers in Israel’s history: “There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel” (1 Kings 21:25-26).

Not only had Ahab acted within his own self-interest, but he had caused Israel to sin (1 Kings 21:22).

Later, we read that Ahab went into battle against the king of Aram. Had Ahab obeyed the prophet’s instructions, Aram’s king would have been killed and the country would have been taken captive by Israel. This battle should have never been fought. In the end, the act of preserving Aram became Ahab’s undoing.

At the end of our reading, we’re introduced to King Jehoshaphat of Judah, the anti-Ahab.

Acts 12:24-13:41. Notice in verse 13 that the man formerly known as “Saul” is now called “Paul” for the remainder of the book. Paul was the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Saul. The change is probably made because Paul begins to increase his focus of evangelization on Gentiles rather than Jews.

Psalm 137:1-138:8. Psalm 137 was written long after David and Asaph. “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1). It was written after Judah was taken into exile by Babylon in 586 B.C. That means this psalm was written about 500 years after David.

The psalmist longs for Jerusalem—not because it was the psalmist’s hometown, but because it was the location of the Temple, where the people of Judah gathered to worship Yahweh.

He also remembers how the people of Edom jeered when Judah was taken captive. In the book of Obadiah, which we’ll read in December, Obadiah the prophet speaks a prophecy to Edom for their gloating.

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Ahab strikes me as very utilitarian. He follows the advice of a godly prophet who promises victory over Aram. But he disobeys the prophet’s advice when he decides his country is better off by not slaying Aram’s king.

Queen Jezebel, an ardent supporter of Baal, calls for a day of fasting in the name of the God of Israel—in order to frame Naboth (whose vineyard Ahab desired). Like Ahab, she used God for her own means. After her people stoned Naboth, she took possession of his vineyard.

Reading about Ahab and Jezebel prompts me to ask myself, How often do I treat God with the same utilitarian disregard as these two evil rulers?

By “utilitarian,” I’m referring to the way we tend to pick and choose what parts of God we want—and reject everything else associated with him. We use God for our own means.

All too often, I want salvation but I spurn sanctification. I want the forgiveness and eternal life the comes from giving my life to Jesus (salvation)—but I don’t want to be like him (sanctification is the process in which we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in order to become more like Christ).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great theologian and pastor who was martyred by Hitler at the end of World War II once wrote about something he called “cheap grace”:

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

The opposite of the utilitarian life is the submissive life. To be submissive to God means to lay down our wills in order to conform to his will and his ways. It’s the attitude of Job, who, after losing his children and everything he owned, remarked, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).

The submissive life isn’t always practical, popular, or relevant, but through it, we grow deeper in our understanding of God and deeper in our communion with God.

*Incidentally, a new book about Dietrich Bonhoeffer was released just a few months ago. It’s entitled Bonhoeffer: Prophet, Martyr, Prophet Spy —written by Eric Metaxes (Thomasn Nelson). I highly recommend it.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. How do you tend to “use” God?
  3. In what parts about God and his ways do you find it difficult to submit? What benefits might you experience by submitting to him?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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